Freelancing Close to Home

Recently we’ve talked about the importance of global freelancing. While it is important to keep the potential international marketplace in mind, local freelancing is still an option.

In this post, I’ll talk about some of the advantages of freelancing close to home. I’ll also share a few tips that you can use to find local gigs. Finally, I’ll invite you to share your own tips for finding freelance work close to home.

Advantages of Working Locally

While your local economy may be struggling, there may still be local freelance opportunities available. Often when employees are laid off, companies turn to freelancers to handle their projects.

There can be some definite advantages to working as freelancer near to where you live. Here are six of those advantages:

  1. Face time with clients. While an extremely shy freelancer may cringe at the thought of meeting with a client face-to-face, there are many situations when personal meetings may help eliminate communication problems.
  2. The ability to use the client’s resources. If your client is local, they may allow you to come into the office a few days a week. This can be particularly helpful if the client owns an expensive tool (such as a specialized software package).
  3. It builds real relationships. Your local clients have the potential to become more than just your customer. Because they are local, if you hit it off your client may become your “in real life” friend. (You never know.)
  4. Some clients prefer to deal with freelancers they can see. This is particularly true if the client will be investing a large sum of money in the project. In fact, there are still some clients who will require a freelancer to work at least part-time on site.
  5. Client is more likely to see you as part of the team. If the client has met you face-to-face, they are more likely to think of you as part of their team rather than an outsider. This means they are more likely to keep you “in the loop” when it comes to updates and changes.
  6. Local clients lead to local referrals. Having local clients tends to build on itself. Many local professionals know each other and if they like the work that you do, they are more likely to recommend you to their colleagues.

Now that we’ve discussed the benefits of working with local clients, it’s time to go out and find some. :)

How to Find Local Gigs

While you may wish to add some local work to your schedule, do you know how to do it? Here are six techniques you can use to find local gigs for your freelancing business:

  1. Direct mail. Develop a letter highlighting your freelancing specialty and send it to local businesses in a 20 mile radius (for most this is a reasonable driving distance of less than an hour). Follow through with a phone call to see if it was received.
  2. Local networking events. Attend local business networking events. Make a point to meet at least two new people each time that you do. If you’re shy, these practical networking tips may help.
  3. Take classes. Bypass online training opportunities for live, local training and you’ll have the chance to get to know other professionals in the class. Where can you find live training classes? Try your local college or business training center.
  4. Local professional organizations. If your specialty has a professional organization that meets regularly, consider joining it and attending the meetings. Many professional organizations operate a job bank for members that is open to freelance members as well.
  5. People you already know. One of the best sources to find local work is through friends, family, and acquaintances who you already know. Even if they, themselves, can’t hire you they may know of someone else who can.
  6. Job advertisements. Of course, the final place to find local freelance opportunities is obvious, but many freelancers overlook job advertisements. Many businesses still advertise for contract employees. Make it a point to check job listings regularly.

Now that you know the benefits of freelancing locally and how to find local freelancing gigs, it’s time to hear from the freelance community.

Your Turn

Local clients can be a good addition to your client mix.

How many of your clients are local? How did you find them? Share your answers in the comments.

Image by Diana Parkhouse

Comments

  1. says

    I would say 97-99% of my clients are local. I may get a gig once or twice a year that I can do remotely and it usually is a task that is out of my ordinary area of expertise, which is video editing.

    Most of my clients are through word of mouth. I am pretty involved in the film community and that helps get the word out. I can say that 80% of my work is through referrals from past satisfied clients.

    As much as I would like the video editing to be a remote profession, it just isn’t quite there yet, especially with big budget productions and quick turnarounds. I dream of a day when I can have a solid enough reputation, a solid client list, and editing can be efficiently accomplished remotely, then I can move to some extreme remote wild location and work where I love to play.

  2. says

    It is so interesting, but because of the internet and how ‘global’ it is, people really lose focus when it comes to marketing to their own local market. The local market is STRONG and we need to tap into that market.

    It’s extremely easy, too! Along with all your suggestions, using social media, such as Twitter and FB Pages, to tap into your local markets is so easy. It’s easy to get into a conversation and/or retweet local people on Twitter. In fact, most businesses are now wanting to use Twitter strictly for local purposes.

    Same with FB Pages. You can find local pages, begin interacting with them and building a relationship.

    I’ve used these techniques and have landed some good gigs because of it. But the only reason I got those gigs was because I was constantly interacting with them on their wall, on their status and being friendly. So when they needed someone with my skills, I was the first person they thought of.

    Great article, Laura!!

  3. says

    Cameron KIng–It sounds like for your specialty local work is the way to go.

    Morgan, Great additional tips! It IS really easy to get into a full online mode and I know some freelancers who only accept online projects. But, it’s important to remember that is not all there is.

  4. says

    I have a few local clients, many of them by referral. I helped a client with a website a couple of years ago and she sings my praises to everyone she meets, resulting in some new work. I’ve also had jobs via personal contacts. I agree that you shouldn’t ignore the local. I’ve found advantages in being able to establish what clients want in face to face meetings and in collecting payment.

  5. says

    I havent had a global web development adventure (yet)!

    I think it’s way too important to have a face to face meeting with a potential client to find out what that client REALLY wants (the details usually come out AFTER the initial questions are asked and we are in a more relaxed mode after lunch or coffee).

    Bottom line- there is no better way to communicate than face to face!

  6. says

    Great post Laura.

    It was funny, but when I started freelancing my main referral source lived across the country from me so I had a lot of non-local clients.

    However, I have since joined a local business networking group. Over the course of my first year there, I attended network events to get to know people, but didn’t do a hard sell. I started to get to know many of the local business owners and when it came time for them (or someone they knew) to hire a copywriter, they thought of me.

    As freelancers we cannot negate the importance of true networking. We also must remember that these events may not generate immediate work, but if you stick with it, you will get clients.

    One extra tip, if your local networking group has smaller groups within it and/or committees, get involved. The people with more connections take notice of others who volunteer their time to the group.

  7. says

    Great post Laura! It goes hand in hand with the post over at Copyblogger this morning.

    I am finding local networking such as the chamber of commerce a good way to develop face to face relationships with local businesses and create business opportunities. We have to remember that there are still many people that are not online all day like we are and are not into social media. So if we want to work with them we need to get out and make the effort to meet them and see how we can all work together…

    Hope you are doing well Laura!

  8. says

    Thanks Sharon! I really think a lot of freelancers do overlook local clients. We have the idea of having an “internet business” sort of pushed on us and forget that not all clients need to come through the internet.

    crawpdx–Face to face meetings can be invaluable. I’ve had clients from all of the world and the U.S., so I know that it’s possible to work without them, but they can give you that edge that, in the end, may result in you getting the work.

    Amy C. Teeple, Local groups are so important. It also helps to have real-life people that you can see to talk to about your business.

    Hi Darlene–Yes, much better than last week when I was sick. :) Chamber of commerce is a great suggestion. I wish I had thought of them when I wrote the post…

  9. says

    Robert is getting ready to publish his latest book which is a guide to making photography profitable. It is about business. What kind of business? – Commercial Photography of course. The business of finding and keeping clients. It applies to all kinds of business where person to person contact is required. But, of course, you already know about that!
    Look for it soon at Kindle

  10. says

    Every single bit of my work has come from local clients. I’ve gotten all of them through some kind of personal connection — referral, networking, Chamber of Commerce, etc. Web presence is obviously needed, but nothing beats getting out and meeting people and making connections.

  11. says

    It is a great idea to expand around one’s location. However, there’s a big downside that comes with local referrals. You expand only in a given area and are exposed to a couple of risks. Basically having clients in one location is the same as hosting a website on a single server in one datacenter. If something goes wrong, you’ll have a tough time.

    Spanning your clients all over the country, continent or world is better because if any crisis or force measures strike somewhere, it is likely you have enough clients and incoming coming from elsewhere.

    Plus there’s another reason. Prices in your area may be smaller than you’re worth. If you’re not based in some expensive city like Tokio, Moscow, Geneva you should really consider looking clients outside your 30 mile radius.

  12. says

    As a client i would much rather meet the person face to face. Quite often you talk on the phone to people you work with for months and months and its not until you meet them you can get a real idea of what you think. first impressions really do mean a lot and most people always go with first impressions.For example If i was looking for a freelancer and there was one here in the UK willing to come and meet me regarding the requirements or one in Australia i would go with the one i could meet.

    But like with everything there are advantages and disadvantages to both. Ultimately i think it comes down to cost and who can get the results you need.

  13. says

    Most of my clients have been local however I do have a couple of remote clients as well. Most leads have come for me through word of mouth and just putting myself out there and letting folks know what I do and that I’m available.

    I do feel that being able to meet face to face is a huge advantage and although I do prefer to work remotely, being able to meet in person can be important.

  14. says

    A lot of my clients are local, because obviously I’ve found that that’s the easiest way to network. I’m surprised that nobody’s (well, from what I’ve seen from skimming this post) pointed out the big thing about sourcing work locally: not being at the mercy of exchange rates. Depending on which currencies you earn and live on, the volatility of exchange rates can be the difference between making rent that month and not. Add to that bank and PayPal fees, and suddenly earning your own currency looks all the more appealing. It’s great when a favourable exchange rate allows you to price yourself competitively, but it’s less good when you end up being comparatively expensive due to having to charge a rate that converts into fair earnings.

    And if you get stiffed on a payment, it’s a whole lot easier to retrieve the money if the person is in the same country. (Even better if it’s the same town and you have a big male friend!)

    Something to think about, anyway, and it’s an argument that almost never gets brought up when people say that global is the only way to go.

  15. says

    I do love your post, it is really interesting for someone like me as a freelancer. In my case most of my clients I’ve work them remotely. I think I am more prefer to work remotely, based on my experienced, I feel comfortable than meeting clients face to face.. :) maybe I am a shy person.. :)

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